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Best Rafting Shoes – Complete Guide For 2021

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In my article What To Wear White Water Rafting, I talked about how to choose the right clothing for your whitewater rafting expedition. This article focuses on proper rafting shoe selection as your footwear can break or make your rafting experience.

The fast-flowing water and rock-covered shores mean you need shoes that stay on your feet, comfortable, protect your feet from sharp objects, possess good grip, and are quick drying.

Luckily, there are several rafting shoes on the market that fit the above criteria. But all rafting shoes are not made equal. I’ve researched and tested several rafting shoes to bring you this list of the best rafting shoes available on the market today.

Below, you’ll find a review of the selected rafting shoes, their pros, cons, and a buying guide to help you through the decision-making process. Here we go.

The 7 Best Rafting Shoes for 2021

Astral Men’s WatershoesOur Top Pick

Astral Men’s Loyak Barefoot Shoes for Outdoor, Water, Travel and Boat, Black/Brown, 11 M US

 out of stock
Amazon.com
as of September 20, 2021 2:11 am

Rafting isn’t a fashion show and your footwear should be practical above anything but boy, these Astral Rafting Shoes are aesthetically pleasing. You’ll also find this shoe very lightweight and comfortable. They fit snugly and won’t come off your feet during rafting. However, sizes run small and you should have this in mind.

The Astral shoes are very breathable and drain water efficiently. However, it takes a while (more than 24 hours) for the shoes to be completely dried.

I like the excellent protection this shoe provides. You can walk on rocky shores without injuring your feet. The excellent grip also allows you to walk on wet surfaces without slipping.

 Specifications

  • Upper Material: Mesh & hydrophobic canvas
  • Sole Material: Rubber
  • Weight: 209 g / 0.46 lb

Pros

  • Lightweight and comfortable.
  • Breathable.
  • Excellent protection.
  • Durable.

Cons

  • Sizes run a bit small.
  • Takes a while to dry completely.

Other Buying Options:

Keen Men’s Newport H2 Sandal

KEEN Men's Newport H2 Sandal, India Ink/Rust, 11M

$110.00  in stock
8 new from $109.95
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of September 20, 2021 2:11 am

The Keen Newport H2 review is one of the best rafting shoes on the market thanks to its superb comfort. Note that these sandals are designed for rafting and other watersports and should only be used for these purposes. If you use this sandal for hiking or trekking, it’s going to come apart in no time.

You’ll find several reviews of people online complaining about the durability of the sandals. And the reason is that most people use these sandals for other purposes apart from rafting and other water sports.

Thanks to the roomy toe box and excellent insole, this sandal is one of the most comfortable you’ll ever come across. The excellent traction of this sandal means you’ll be able to navigate on wet rocks and surfaces without slipping. This sandal also dries quickly and is stylish for those concerned about the appearance of their shoes, haha.

 Specifications

  • Upper Material: Polyester
  • Sole Material: Rubber
  • Weight: 911 g / 2.01 lbs per pair

Pros

  • Easy to put on and remove.
  • Lightweight and super comfortable.
  • Quick drying.
  • Excellent traction.

Cons

  • No major shortcomings.

Keen Women’s Whisper Sandal

KEEN Women's Whisper Sandal, Dark Shadow/Ceramic,8 M US

 in stock
Amazon.com
as of September 20, 2021 2:11 am

Let’s just say I’m blown away by the several color combinations available for the Keen Women’s Whisper Sandal. The ladies will be receiving several compliments when they wear these sandals. But don’t let us lose sight of the most important thing about these sandals, which is their functionality.

The bungee closure secures this sandal tightly to your feet and ensures it doesn’t come off during the most vigorous rafting expedition. And the EVA midsole provides a superb cushioning effect to make this sandal very comfortable.

I also like that these sandals dry very quickly and the outsole has enough grip to prevent you from slipping on wet surfaces. Also, the outsole is tough and capable of protecting your feet from sharp rocks and other items that can harm your feet.

Like the other Keen product on this list, it’s best if you use these sandals just for rafting. You may be tempted to use them for hiking, trekking, or walking around but they’re not going to last long that way.

 Specifications

  • Upper Material: Polyester
  • Sole Material: Synthetic
  • Weight: 246 g / 0.5 lb per pair

Pros

  • Easy to put on and remove.
  • Very comfortable.
  • Dries quickly.
  • Excellent traction and protection.

Cons

  • No major shortcomings.

Other Buying Options:

La Sportiva TX3 Approach Shoe

La Sportiva TX3 Approach Shoe, Spicy Orange, 46

 out of stock
Amazon.com
as of September 20, 2021 2:11 am

The La Sportiva TX3 is a true jack of all trades. If you are looking for a legitimate outdoor shoe that can go anywhere and handle anything you throw at it from rafting to mountaineering, canyoneering, and so on, the La Sportiva TX3 got you covered.

I’m concerned about the rafting performance of this shoe and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed by it. The TX3 is very comfortable and fits snugly. It also drains water efficiently thanks to the mesh upper.

The outsole provides good traction on wet and slippery surfaces and allows you to navigate on these surfaces with confidence. I must also talk about the lightweight design of this shoe which makes it even more comfortable to wear.

Since this is a multipurpose shoe, it’s going to be extra durable if you use it exclusively for rafting. But it’s tough enough to take almost anything you throw at it. Hail the La Sportiva TX3!

 Specifications

  • Upper Material: PolyMesh / 1.5mm PU TechLite rand / Vibram® rubber toe rand
  • Sole Material: Rubber
  • Weight: 12.50 oz / 360g

Pros

  • A true all-purpose outdoor shoe.
  • Comfortable to wear.
  • Drain water efficiently.
  • Fits snugly.
  • Durable and long-lasting.

Cons

  • No major shortcomings.

Other Buying Options:

NRS Men’s Vibe Water Shoe

NRS Men's Vibe Water Shoe-Gray/Blue-9

$74.95  in stock
Amazon.com
as of September 20, 2021 2:11 am

Whether you are on water or land, the NRS Men’s Vibe Water shoe is a footwear you can rely on. It’s stylish enough to be worn as an everyday shoe while possessing the functionality to perform as a rafting shoe.

Thanks to the durable and water-resistant cordura nylon material used to manufacture the NRS Vibe, this shoe dries quickly after being wet. The instep also features a couple of drainage ports to efficiently remove water from the shoe without the need for manual removal.

The lace-up system means this shoe won’t come off during the most vigorous rafting sessions and the rubber outsole provides confidence when traversing slippery and wet surfaces.

 Specifications

  • Upper Material: 1000 denier nylon
  • Sole Material: Rubber
  • Weight: 1.4 lbs / 402.6 g

Pros

  • Versatile.
  • Comfortable.
  • Efficient drainage & quick drying.
  • Durable.

Cons

  • No major shortcomings.

Columbia Men’s Drainmaker Iv Boat Shoe

Columbia Men's Drainmaker Iv Water Shoe, City Grey, Mountain red, 11

 out of stock
Amazon.com
as of September 20, 2021 2:11 am

The Columbia drainmaker is somewhat of a jack of all trades as it performs excellently on water, boat, and land. The lace-up system of this shoe makes it easy to put on and remove. And I’m a big fan of the lightweight midsole which provides long-lasting comfort and superior cushioning for improved performance.

Thanks to the quality outsole, the Columbia Drainmaker also has excellent traction and will allow you to walk on slippery surfaces without falling. There is even a dual-zone winter tread pattern that allows you to walk on ice and snow!

This shoe also dries relatively fast. There is also a protective toe bumper that provides extra safety. Seriously, there is no way you can get it wrong with this water shoe.

 Specifications

  • Upper Material: Synthetic
  • Sole Material: Rubber
  • Weight: 333g/11.75oz

Pros

  • Great for both hiking and water sports.
  • Can be used in salty water.
  • Excellent traction.
  • Very comfortable to use.
  • Durable and long-lasting.

Cons

  • Might take a little while to dry completely.

Other Buying Options:

Merrell Women’s All Out Blaze Sieve Sports & Outdoor Shoes

Merrell Women's J12732 Sports & Outdoor Shoes, Dark Slate, 38.5

$84.95
$79.95
 in stock
Amazon.com
as of September 20, 2021 2:11 am

The Merrell Women’s All Blaze Sieve Water Shoe is a multi-purpose shoe that can be used for rafting, hiking, trail-running, and as an everyday shoe thanks to its sturdy construction that allows it to take on any type of terrain with ease.

Thanks to a bungee lacing system, it’s easy to put on and remove the All Blaze Sieve Water Shoe. Your feet are well-protected from potentially injurious materials thanks to the tough outsole and the antimicrobial treatment allows this shoe to remain completely odorless.

This shoe is also breathable and lightweight. The upper part is made of high-quality leather which can withstand tough conditions on the trails. And inside the leather are small gaps containing mesh which prevents sweat and heat from accumulating. You’ll also find out that this water shoe dries very quickly.

 Specifications

  • Sole Material: Synthetic
  • Upper Material: Leather and mesh
  • Weight: 396g/14oz

Pros

  • Comfortable and provides reliable traction.
  • Eye-catching design.
  • Lightweight and works well on water and land.
  • Breathable and easy to clean.
  • Durable and long-lasting.

Cons

  • The internal resistance could be better for long-distance walks.

Other Buying Options:

Best Rafting Shoes – The Guide 

Why Good Shoes Are Important For Whitewater Rafting

Getting wet is a matter of when on a rafting trip. Water is going to get into the raft from the fast-flowing rapids and you may find yourself completely drenched if you fall overboard. For this reason, you need shoes that are designed for use on or in water.

Also, your shoes must be comfortable. A new pair of shiny water shoes are great but make sure the shoe is broken in before you wear it rafting. Else, you are going to be miserable on your trip.

It’s important your shoes fit you tightly else they may come off during the trip. Go for quick-drying shoes, if possible.

Shores around whitewater are usually rocky and slippery. And this means you need shoes that can protect your feet from potentially injurious materials while also having sufficient traction to allow you to navigate on wet surfaces without falling.

What Kinds Of Shoes To Avoid

Stay away from the following shoes if you don’t want a miserable rafting experience:

  • Flip-flops
  • Loose-fitting shoes of any type
  • Heavy hiking boots
  • Any backless footwear
  • Leather footwear that takes a long time to completely dry

Rafting Shoes vs. Kayaking Shoes

While rafting and kayaking are both water sports, there’s a slight difference in the shoes required for both activities. The explosion of kayaking has caused many water shoes to be designed with kayaking in mind. This has led to the manufacture of softer and more flexible water shoes that allow kayakers to fit into their yak’s cockpit.

However, rafting requires shoes with hard soles. This is because this type of shoe allows rafters to brace more efficiently. Using kayaking shoes, which have softer soles, for rafting means you won’t be able to brace efficiently on your rafting trips.

Shoes with softer soles also have less traction. And a lot of traction is needed during rafting to navigate on wet and slippery surfaces. Your feet are also less protected by kayaking shoes as rocks, gravels, corals, and so on are commonly found around whitewater rafting locations. And these items may penetrate shoes with soft soles.

Summary: The difference between kayaking and rafting shoes lies in the soles. Rafting requires thicker and tougher soles than what is required for kayaking.

Rafting Shoes Guide1

 

How To Choose Shoes For Whitewater Rafting

Below are factors to consider when choosing a pair of shoes for whitewater rafting

Fast Draining and Quick Drying

Rafting shoes should be fast draining since it’s difficult to walk or even swim on footwear filled with water. You should also choose a pair of shoes that’s your size since bigger shoes will retain water more.

You may consider wearing a sandal in warmer climates as they drain water very fast. And if you prefer to wear an actual shoe, go for one with an upper mesh.

It’s preferable that your rafting shoes are quick drying. This prevents blisters, unwanted odor, and mold growth.

Toe Protection

Toe bang‘ occurs during rating when you hit your toe against rocks and may lead to a purplish bruise under the toenail or complete loss of your toenail. The nature of rafting also means your forward toe gets squished all day and this means you have to properly protect your toes.

Shoes obviously provide better toe protection than sandals. Sandals are especially beneficial in summer and on class II-III rapids. Anything above class III requires you to wear rafting shoes for the protection of your toes.

Ankle Protection

If you want to avoid spraining your ankle on your rafting trip, you need shoes that provide sufficient ankle protection. Kayaking shoes aren’t going to work since their softer soles means less ankle protection (another reason to go for rafting shoes).

Rafting shoes with good ankle protection also provide additional joint support in a raft and support the paddler while they carry heavy loads. It’s kind of difficult to find a satisfactory high top on the market currently but the shoes on this list will provide enough ankle protection for your rafting expedition.

Traction

One of the most important features to look out for in a rafting shoe. Shoes with good traction will prevent you from falling on slippery surfaces. Now, remember that the banks of rivers and lakes are usually slippery and difficult to walk on. So for your safety, get a rafting shoe with good traction.

Rafting Shoes Guide2

 

Comfort

It’s important your rafting shoes are comfortable else you are set for a miserable time on the water. Ill-fitting shoes will cause rashes and blisters. Keep an eye on the cushioning and design of a shoe before buying it.

Breathability

Breathable shoes are made of fabrics that permit water vapor to escape while maintaining water repellence. Such shoes are beneficial in hot climates as they wick sweat, prevent foul smell and athlete’s foot. Good news is that many rafting shoes are breathable thanks to the mesh materials used to manufacture the upper parts.

Final Thoughts

You now realize that you can’t just wear any footwear on your rafting trip if you want your time on the water to be enjoyable. This article will guide you on proper shoe selection for rafting. But remember that shoes are just one aspect of your dressing for rafting and check my article about What To Wear White Water Rafting for other clothing to wear.

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